MISE-EN-PLACE

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Entremets

An entremet [ehn-truh-may] (or entremets, from Old French, literally meaning "between servings") is in modern French cuisine a small, light dish served between courses or simply a dessert. According to Larousse Gastronomique, the word entremet indicates the "sweet course" which is always served after the "cheese course" in France. Entremet is also used to describe a specific dessert, a cake made of differently textured layers: cake, cream, crunch, jelly, and mousse. Three layers are typical, but an Entremets can have as many as seven.

Fruit, nuts, and olives can also be served as an entremets course, to cleanse the palate after the cheese course and before the dessert course.

Sautéed Figs with Ricotta

6 fresh figs, trimmed and cut in half

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 -6 tsp brown sugar

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/2 C low-fat ricotta cheese

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

Combine the ricotta cheese, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl and refrigerate for a few hours if you have the time. Combine the figs, vinegar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Let marinate 10 - 15 minutes. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the figs and sauce. Cook for a few minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. For each serving, spoon 1/3 of the ricotta in the center of a dessert plate or bowl. Then arrange 4 fig halves around the ricotta, and drizzle with sauce.

M-e-P

I focused on smoothing out the chocolate glaçage with quick, sure strokes of my spatula—I refused to look at the clock again. Edward would be home from his last day of stunt training tonight. On the fridge calendar—which I was also trying not to look at—the date a week from today was circled in red, with SHOOTING — VANCOUVER written over the next three weeks. This wasn't the first time he'd shot on location since I started working for him, and it wasn't the first time I'd miss him while he was gone. I'd never missed him quite so much as I expect I will this time, though.

He was still technically on a diet for shooting, but he'd been working so damn hard and deserved a reward. Hence the complicated French Entremet I was glazing, my lip firmly between my teeth. Edward and his sweet tooth would love it, even if he couldn't really appreciate the technical skill involved with making a three-layer cake, the mousse filling, and a fondant shell covered in glaze. Edward was worth it.

I'd barely seen him all month. He left the house at four a.m., long before I even arrived, and routinely didn't get back until after nine, even on the weekends. We'd had another "date," but he fell asleep right after dinner. He only woke up enough to shuffle to bed, apologizing profusely before he passed out again. Every night, he'd chatter about his day, gesturing with his fork as he wolfed his meal down. I'd kiss him when he got home and before I left for the night. My drives home were spent reliving those kisses and trying not to let disappointment eat away at me. Because we hadn't done much more than kissing. That would change tonight. I hoped.

The cake was as perfect as a savory chef could get it, so I finally allowed myself to check the time. Damn, he'd be home soon. I slid the cake onto the lowest shelf in the fridge, making sure there were a few inches of space on all sides. With two fingers, I nudged the door closed.

If I started now, Edward would be home just in time for the filets to be medium-rare. Perfect.

He wasn't home yet when I pulled the steaks out of the oven. Should I change? I should change.

At eight p.m., I was in a new outfit and still waiting. The filets were cold, but I could reheat them without too much trouble. I was still alone at nine. I called him—straight to voicemail. He must still be working. At ten, I called him again. Voicemail.

I wrapped the filets in foil, each fold crisp and square. I added a pat of butter to the bottom of his. I put the potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and covered them with cling wrap. The asparagus went in a tupperware. The meal went into the fridge, above the Entremet, and I drove myself home.

Worry and fatigue blended into a pervasive, bodily ache. My throat was thick, heavy with something I couldn't swallow down. My gut twisted. Edward was all right. Someone would call me if something went wrong. Wouldn't they? Probably. Eventually.

I picked up my phone. I put it down again. I vacillated between Edward's mom's number and Victoria's. We'd been dating for what, two months? Was I really going to be the clingy, naggy girlfriend, checking up on him? No. That wasn't me.

Still, I was too nauseated to eat anything real for dinner, but something in my stomach would probably make me feel better. The taste of the Entremet's dark cocoa—mysterious and burnt—sat on the back of my tongue and hung in my nose. I wanted something sweet—sweetness to counter the bitter bile in my nervous stomach and the acid trickling through my veins from my heart.

I called again. Voicemail again.

I needed something sweet. There were some Mission figs in a bowl on my counter. I searched my cabinets, shutting off my mind and letting my flavor-sense flow. Spice to deepen; cinnamon, brown sugar. Balsamic and lemon to lend an edge, the bitterness that makes one appreciate the fruit. Sweet needs a little salt, seasoning to make it more itself... I took a half-empty tub of ricotta cheese out of the fridge. Rich, creamy, and smooth, it'd anchor the figs.

Anchored would feel good right about now, too.

I prepared my light meal, only my hands involved in the task. Why was I so anxious? I looked around my kitchen, the one that was actually mine. The walls were bare, a utilitarian off-white color I told myself I'd paint over but never did. No notes on the fridge. There was an old TV in the corner, the only real sign of habitation—even it was a little dusty. When did this place—my house—become a way-station instead of a home? Fuck. I'd been alone since culinary school, but I'd never felt lonely until I fell in love with Edward.

I ate my meal standing at the counter. The room was silent.

My phone ringing a little after midnight woke me up. Edward was calling. I tried to shake off my grogginess as I answered.

"'Lo?"

"Heyyyyyyy, Bella. Where are ya?" Was he drunk?

"I'm at home, where the fuck do you think I am?"

"You're s'posed to be at the club with me! We're celebrating!"

"What club? Why? Celebrating what?" I sat up and turned the light on. Fuck, ouch. I blinked until my eyes adjusted.

"Vicky called you! Didn't Vicky call you?"

"No, Vicky did not call me. Edward… you're at a club? You never go to clubs anymore."

"I know, baby, but we're done and headed to butt-fuck nowhere for a month, it's time for a party!"

"Vancouver is hardly BFN." God, how much did I not want to go to a club right now? If Edward was already drunk, he'd be well on his way to smashed by the time I even got there…

"No, no, no-no-no. Not Vancouver anymore. Romania, found out last week. Remember? Something about the trees, I don't fucking know. Mmm, Bella, I've been thinking about you all night…" Glasses clinked together and Edward took a harsh breath. Ah, shit. He was doing shots.

Wait. "What the fuck, Romania?! Romania?! The calendar says Vancouver." How many times had I looked at it today? The past week? I pulled my phone away from my ear and flipped through to my Calendar app there. It still says Vancouver, leaving a week from tomorrow.

"Yeah. Didn't I tell you about that? I thought I told you about that. Oh, wait." That annoying sound of a hand muffling a phone's mouthpiece hurt my ears. I rolled, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed and put my feet on the floor. The Mexican tile was cold and rough against the soles of my feet.

"Uh, Vicky says sorry, she forgot to sync her calendar with yours."

Bullshit. That bitch didn't forget anything. It seemed that Victoria did more than passively disapprove of me.

"What about you? Aren't you sorry? Shouldn't you have told me this—that your destination and departure changed—Edward?"

I could hear him sobering up over the phone. The music grew fainter, the background chatter faded away.

"Shit. Yes, I—I'm sorry. I thought I did? I'll come home right now. I'll be there in twen—"

"No." My eyes prickled. My throat was cottony and tight.

"What?"

"No. When I said home, I meant my home. I'm at my house. And I'm not leaving."

"I'll come there." He sounded a little desperate. Good.

"No. I don't want you anywhere near me. Enjoy your party."

I hung up and turned the phone off. That wasn't dramatic enough, so I threw it into a drawer in my bedside table and slammed it shut.

"Ugh." I rubbed my hand over my face. The salt-water scratched my skin. I lay down again. Fuck this. Fuck him. I had three weeks of—essentially—paid vacation coming up now. After that, I was gone.

Edward was across town; he already felt half a world away.

AN: Thank you, every single one, for reading and reviewing. I may not always be able to reply, but I cherish every word.